Kansas Jayhawks

Why Kansas Wins the 2018 NCAA Tournament

The Kansas Jayhawks enter the 2018 NCAA Tournament on the heels of an 81-70 win over West Virginia in the Big 12 title game and have once again been tabbed as a No. 1 seed in the Midwest Region.

With the loss of key players like Frank Mason III and Josh Jackson from last year’s squad, expectations weren’t as high as they usually are for a Kansas team that didn’t possess any stars. But head coach Bill Self got his guys to peak at the right time, and the Jayhawks can be had for a +1200 price to win their first championship since 2008.

It’s no secret Kansas has had its issues getting the job done on the biggest stage, but I think this year is going to be different. Here’s why they could be the last team standing at the end of the tournament.

The return of Udoka Azubuike

Self has stated he’s optimistic that big man Udoka Azubuike will be available for the Jayhawks’ tournament-opening game against Penn, and that’s great news for Kansas bettors. Azubuike, who didn’t play in the Big 12 tournament due to an injured ligament in his left knee, returned to the floor for a light workout on Sunday and was practicing with the team on Monday.

The seven-foot sophomore has been a dominant force in the paint this season, averaging 13.7 points and 7.1 rebounds. With him on the floor, the Jayhawks are a much more dangerous team.

Pressure? What pressure?

Kansas is synonymous with college basketball greatness, but with that comes exceedingly heightened expectations. The Jayhawks have easily been the most overlooked member of the preseason top five and are playing with house money right now.

The numerous tournament disappointments the school has experienced since its run to the championship game in 2012 have happened to much more talented teams, so a deep run could easily happen to this year’s edition with lower expectations and a chip on their shoulder.

Devonte’ Graham: defensive difference maker

While Mason III and Jackson grabbed most of the headlines in their time in Lawrence, Graham has steadily been a stud for the Jayhawks, particularly on the defensive end. The senior guard started slowly in the Big 12 championship game before heating up in the second half, becoming the catalyst as the team finished the game on a 25-7 run.

Veteran experience is key when it comes to getting the job done in March, and Graham has that in spades. He can’t do it all himself, but I’m betting on the 23-year-old having a huge NCAA Tournament.